Bike race weekend rolls in

ALBANY, Ga. -- This year's cycling season got off to a wet start Saturday, but that did not deter the spirits of those racing in the Good Life City in the inclement weather.

The SB&T Bike Race Weekend, which included the Saturday criteriums that took place during downtown Albany's Mardi Gras celebration, attracted more than 300 riders.

Click here to see more photos from the Mardis Gras festivities, bike race and marathon.

This was an increase of 100 cyclists from last year's festivities, in part having to do with the fact that more potential participants were available this weekend.

"There was another race taking place at the same time last year," said Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau Sales Manager Liz Gray. "Plus it (the Albany bike race) is a popular race."

Among these cyclists was Andrew Crater from AeroCat Cycling Team, who won the finale professional race with a time of 58 minutes and 54.6 seconds.

Crater, who resides in Asheville, N.C., has actually been training in Gainesville, Fla. He is currently in his 20th year of racing.

"I feel good," Crater said shortly after crossing the finish line. "I've been training real hard and I tried to come into the season healthy."

The criteriums were part of the Albany Mardi Gras festivities that also included the Snickers Marathon Bar Marathon and half-marathon, the Flint RiverQuarium Turtle Race and the festival on West Broad Avenue as well as the "Sounds of Praise at the Park" event taking place at noon in the Veterans Ampitheater today.

One of the spectators present for the criterium events was Mike Vann, a member of the Pecan City Pedalers who seemed determined to cheer on his peers rain or shine.

"It's outstanding when (the cyclists) race in the rain; it's awesome," he said during the pro race. "I just wish there was more of a crowd.

"I've been here every year. I'm here to give support. Just watching (cyclists) go at this speed is fun."

Saturday's criteriums consisted of 12 events, which lasted 30 minutes to an hour depending on the particular event. The pro race, which kicked off at 3 p.m., lasted for an hour and went on for roughly 30 laps. The criteriums' course took the cyclists west on Pine Avenue, north on Jackson Street, east on Flint Avenue, south on Washington Street, east on Pine Avenue, south on Front Street, west on Broad Avenue, north on Washington Street and then west on Pine Avenue through the finish line -- which was located just outside the Government Center.

Cheryl Fuller-Muller, representing the Louis Garneau Factory Team, also participated in the bike race events Saturday and won the women's Category 1, 2 and 3 criterium.

"The plan was to be aggressive," said Muller, who came from Cumming to take part in the weekend's activities. "I had fun with it.

"It was a good day."

The figure-eight course measured one kilometer. The road race beginning at 9 a.m. today in Lee County as part of the bike race weekend, which will start from Mossy Dell Road and Highway 32, covers a total distance of 90 miles.

The prize purse for the entire weekend was set at $8,500, with the pro races alone being worth just under $2,000 each.